When Jesus says Stay

“As he (Jesus) was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” – Mark 5:18-19.

The context of this story is one that is fairly well known by readers of the Bible (Mark 5:1-20). Jesus and his disciples have gone across the sea of Galilee, and into the country of the Gerasenes. Upon arriving there, Jesus is immediately confronted by a demon possessed man who was living among the tombs outside of the city. The reader is told that many attempts had been made to shackle and subdue this man, but each time the people were unable to bound the possessed man because of his great strength. The man was known to be suffering greatly from the demonic oppression as we are told, “night and day…he was always crying out and cutting himself.” When seeing Jesus, the demon possessed man ran and fell at the feet of the Lord, and pleaded with him, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” Mark tells us that Jesus had been calling the demons to come out of the man, and surely this was causing great anguish inside the man. Jesus asks what the man’s name is, to which the well known response is given, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”

After revealing their identity, the demons plead with Jesus not to send them out of the country, but into a nearby heard of pigs, and Jesus “gave them permission” to do so. When the unclean spirits entered the herd of swine, the herd “rushed down a steep bank and into the sea and drowned.” The herdsman when and told the city of the chaos that had just ensued. The city came down to see what had happened, and there they saw the man who once was an object of their torment, now free from his bondage and in a right state of mind, and then they saw the 2,000 dead swine, and what did they do? They begged Jesus to leave. So Jesus did just that. As his disciples and him were boarding the boat, the young man who had been freed from his bondage rightly begs Jesus that he be allowed to come with him. Jesus, however, does not permit the man to come, but tells him to stay, and to tell all of his friends and those around what “the Lord has done for you.”

There is so much in this story that could be unfolded: the Sovereignty of Jesus over the demons, the negative reaction of the city regarding Jesus’ powerful redemption, but I wish to briefly comment on the way the story ends with Jesus asking the redeemed man to stay. Doesn’t Jesus know that people are going to be highly skeptical of being around this man, much less listening to what he has to say? This was a man that they would all recall their attempts to subdue, and the cries they would hear coming from the mountain. Doesn’t Jesus know that this man longs to be right next to his Savior? Of course he does. Jesus knows all of these things, but he also knows that this redeemed man can do far more by staying then leaving.

Jesus commissions the man to stay and to tell of all that has happened to him. This was this man’s great commission. Of course it was an uphill battle, of course people were going to constantly bring up his past, and fear that he would go right back to being the crazy possessed guy again, but he had a powerful testimony of the redeeming work of the all powerful Savior Jesus Christ, and those people needed to hear it. This is why Jesus asked him to stay, not because it was going to be easy for the man, but because the proclamation of the bondage-breaking work of Christ must go forth into all the world. So maybe you are in a place today where you are begging God to move you or take you somewhere else. If it is God’s will, it will happen. Maybe it’s your work, your home, your ministry, maybe it’s life in general. You just want to leave, but perhaps, just perhaps, God is asking you to stay, and to continue to proclaim all that Jesus has done for you. You may say that is too much of an uphill battle. You are probably right, but “what is impossible for men, is possible for God” (Mk 10:27). Think about how that formerly demon possessed man felt, and look at how that story ended, “He went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” When Christ says to stay, you can be assured that he is doing so for his glory and your good.

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